Episode 12

Revelations in Context – Matthew J. Grow

Revelations in Context and An Elect Lady on LDS Perspectives Podcast

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Laura Harris Hales sat down with Matthew Grow, the LDS Church History Department Director of Publications, to discuss the completion of an exciting project.

The Revelations in Context essays, which have been added to LDS.org over the past four years, are now complete.  In addition to finding them on the Revelations in Context webpage, they can be accessed in booklet form or on the Gospel Library App. Links to the essays have also been integrated into the digital version of the Gospel Doctrine manual on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history.

The essays not only delve into the historical background of the revelations but also how the revelations were received by members at the time. These are not scriptural commentaries but rather stories about how these revelations affected the lives of individuals. They present the award-winning scholarship of the Joseph Smith Papers Project in an easy-to-read format.

We also talk about an essay written by Matt entitled “Thou Art an Elect Lady,” which discusses D&C 24, 25, 26, and 27. Thought you knew about “Emma’s revelation”? Listen in to hear new insights we gain from the fine researchers of the Church History Department.

Exploring the Revelations in Context is a seven-part series with episodes released monthly.

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LDS Perspectives Podcast

Episode 12: Revelations in Context — “Thou Art an Elect Lady” with Matthew J. Grow

 

Laura Hales:              Hello, I am Laura Harris Hales, your host for this episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast. Today I’m here with Matthew J. Grow as part of our Revelations in Context series. Matt wrote an essay entitled, “Thou Art an Elect Lady,” which covers D & C, 24, 25, 26, and 27. Matt Grow is Director of Publications at the Church History Department. He is a general editor and a member of the editorial board of the Joseph Smith Papers. He was previously an assistant professor of history and director of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. He’s the author of several historical books and articles, including a biography of Parley P. Pratt that he co-authored with Terryl Givens. He received his PhD in American History from the University of Notre Dame in 2006. Welcome, Matt.

Matt Grow:                Thanks for having me.

Laura Hales:              Well, we’re going to start right off by talking about the Revelations in Context project in general. How did this get started? I ran across it, just happenstance on lds.org a couple years ago, but I know for a lot of people, this will be a new thing for them.

Matt Grow:                This is a series that we’re really excited about. A number of years ago, we were given a responsibility to do a history section on lds.org, and at that time, we were beginning to study the Doctrine and Covenants and church history in Sunday School in 2017, and so the discussions we had was, what could we do that would be really … Excuse me, 2013, so we discussed, what could we do that would be really beneficial to church members to increase their historical understanding, to increase their faith, to help bring the insides of the Joseph Smith Papers to a broader audience of church members? We decided that we could do a series of short articles that would give the backstory to the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, and so we started actually doing that in 2013, did a number that year, and then we’ve just been working on completing the series, and now, we’re totally done. We have all of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants covered, and they’re intended to be articles that can give you the historical backdrop, so you can understand what’s going on in a particular section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Laura Hales:              It’s now available as a booklet, is it not? From the distribution center?

Matt Grow:                Yeah, so it’s available in a lot of ways, so first of all, you can come to history.lds.org. They’re all there. The second way to do it, is to get out your Gospel Library app, and go to the history section, and it’s all there if you speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and it will be available in an additional seven languages within another week or two. Or you can buy a book from the distribution center called, Revelations in Context: The Stories behind the Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. It’s a book that will cost you about $3.50. It’s available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Laura Hales:              That’s fantastic. One day in October, I got the message that it had appeared on the Gospel Library app, and so I quickly went there and downloaded it. I was excited. It’s right next to the Gospel Topics essays. There was some discussion on Facebook about what these really were. Of course, they asked these questions before they went to the app and read the preface. But having known about these essays for years, this preface was extremely helpful for me to understand in a couple of ways.

First, sometimes I’ve gone to the essays, and I’ve thought, “But that doesn’t tell me what the scripture means,” probably because that’s not the intent of the essays.

Matt Grow:                That’s not the intent. Right, so the intent is to get you to the scriptures by providing the story behind the revelation, so that you can understand that historical context, and then go and read the section of the Doctrine and Covenants. It’s not a Doctrine and Covenants commentary, in the sense that we’ll go verse by verse, and tell you what it means. Rather, it’s to help you understand, “How did this section come about? What was the question that prompted it? What were the circumstances that led Joseph or others to go to the Lord?”

Laura Hales:              In fact, very few of the essays talk on doctrine at all.

Matt Grow:                Right. I think that what we can bring as historians is that historical backdrop, and, of course, the boundary between doctrine and history is always fuzzy. And certain of the articles help you understand the doctrine in the sections as well, but they’re primarily intended as a historical resource.

Laura Hales:              This is one thing that surprised me in the preface, and it helped me understand the essays. They also don’t talk about the interpretation of the doctrine or the sections over time. They just talk about how the circumstance is, the questions that were asked when they were revealed, and how the people at the time received those revelations. I’m going to read to you a quote from the preface. It says, “The essays are told from the point of view of people who experienced them in their immediate context. These narratives give us insight into the meaning of the revelations and help us see them with new eyes.” For example, the Word of Wisdom was given as an invitation in the beginning, so we’re not going to talk about the history through the last 200 years.

Matt Grow:                Right. This is primarily to help us to understand how the revelations came about in the 1830s and 1840s, and sometimes we have a nod to the future to help understand major shifts that happened with a section or a doctrine, but the intent is to get us in the mindset of that particular individual, and each of the articles is told through the point of view of a man or woman at the time, who’s bringing a question, who’s struggling with an issue, then we can understand what brought about that section, and how that section was then applied in that individual’s life. And I think it does prompt us to ask how we might apply it or how we might understand it in our own lives.

Laura Hales:              I think that’s a fascinating approach to take, and I don’t think it’s ever been done before.

Matt Grow:                Well, we’re really excited about this as we enter the curriculum cycle for 2017, we will be studying the Doctrine and Covenants and church history in Sunday school. We’re excited that there’s this historical resource for church members to better understand the Doctrine and Covenants. In fact, in the Doctrine and Covenants lessons in 2017, there will be lots of links between the manual and these articles in Revelations in Context, so they’re going to be integrated in church curriculum. They’re a correlated resource. There’s something that church members can rely on, and we’re just really excited that the series is totally complete, and we really want to increase awareness of it because we think it’s a great, great resource.

Laura Hales:              And this is cutting edge research from the Joseph Smith Papers project primarily, isn’t it?

Matt Grow:                Yeah.

Laura Hales:              And the work of the historians that they’ve done on the side in getting their education, and researching these people from church history?

Matt Grow:                Right. So one of the challenges that we have on the Joseph Smith Papers, is that we have just tremendous research. We understand the early church better than we ever have before because we’ve put in tremendous time, energy, effort into doing that. The audience of the Joseph Smith Papers is a scholarly audience. That’s our mandate. That’s why the books have thousands of footnotes, and a lot of scholarly apparatus, and they’re written in a voice of scholarship. It’s not a voice that appeals to the broad audience, and we understand that, so one of the intents of the Revelations in Context was to take the insights, that historical background of the Joseph Smith Papers, and get it into much broader circulation. So it is really based on this cutting-edge scholarship. Many of the Joseph Smith Papers scholars are the authors of the Revelations in Context or many other people who work in the Church History Department, drawing on that scholarship, are the authors as well.

Laura Hales:              Let’s get to the essay you wrote titled, “Thou Art an Elect Lady.” From the title, listeners will likely know you’re referring to Emma Smith right away. For being one of the most well-known women in early Mormonism, we actually know very little about Emma Smith — her thoughts, disappointments, hopes, and desires. This is probably because she didn’t write a lot of letters that remain — if she did write them, and she was a very private person who didn’t leave a diary. Was it hard for you to find information about Emma for this essay?

Matt Grow:                Sure. She certainly is a historical figure that we wish we had more insight into her thoughts. We have no journals. We have few letters. We have some late reminiscences from Emma that help fill in some of the details. We have records from others about her life, but it’s difficult to find her voice, particularly in the time period that we’re talking about here in this article, which is the late 1820s and the very early 1830s, so that was a challenge.

Laura Hales:              So what did you do?

Matt Grow:                Well, you have to go to the other records. You have to go to Joseph Smith’s history. You have to go to the revelations themselves. You have to go to these later reminiscences to fill in the details of their lives and to try to understand the challenges that they’re encountering at this precise moment in time.

Laura Hales:              You start the essay by stating, “In the months following the April 1830 organization of the Church of Christ, Emma Hale Smith began to understand more fully what her husband’s prophetic calling would mean for her and their young family.” So Emma and Joseph right now didn’t have any children. She had given birth, but the child died.

Matt Grow:                Right, right.

Laura Hales:              But they were still a young family. She was making plans for the future. She probably thought she would be living in Harmony, Pennsylvania. In what ways do you think she “became to understand more fully”?

Matt Grow:                Yeah, and this is one of those areas that we wish we knew more about Emma’s private thoughts. We don’t know the moment that she was converted to the Book of Mormon. We don’t know the moment that she really came to believe that Joseph was a prophet, but clearly, by 1830, she is believing those things. And I think it’s really in this period, right after the church is organized in April 6, 1830, and before section 25 comes to Joseph and Emma in July 1830 that she is beginning to really understand what it’s going to mean to be married to Joseph. It’s going to mean constant opposition from her family, from the community, from others, and that opposition will turn into legal harassment. It will turn into threats of violence. She’s coming to more fully understand that she has chosen a life that is going to be turbulent, that’s there’s going to be a lot of moving around that there’s going to be a lot of poverty in this life. I think all those things are becoming more apparent because the poverty, I think, is staring at her more in the face in these months than maybe it had earlier. The opposition is increasing after the formal organization of the church, so I think that’s what I was trying to get at.

Laura Hales:              He had been taken to court a couple times in this time period for disturbing the peace, I believe.

Matt Grow:                Yeah.

Laura Hales:              Emma was Joseph’s first scribe, and as such, she was a witness to the translation of the Book of Mormon. Her accounts from that period come from a very late source, two months before her death. Can you tell us a little about this source and what Emma said about her experience translating the Book of Mormon?

Matt Grow:                Sure, so this is an interview that Joseph Smith III conducts with Emma in 1879, right, so we’re fifty years after the translation experience, but Emma is very clear about a number of things. First, she’s clear that she served as Joseph’s scribe, that she sat day after day, writing down what he dictated. She’s very clear that Joseph had no other manuscript or book out. He’s not copying from anything. She wants people to understand that that’s not happened. She’s clear that he’s using a seer stone in the translation, that he puts the seer stone in his hat, and he buries his head in the hat as he translates, as he dictates to her. She’s clear that the gold plates are on the table at times, that they’re covered with the tablecloth, that she doesn’t see the gold plates, but she handles them.

I think what was really striking to me is how clear she is in her belief in the Book of Mormon. She says, “This is a divine authenticity,” and she uses a number of, what I think she considered proofs, of that. One of them is that Joseph would never ask where they left off. They would break for lunch. They would break for another reason. When Joseph came back, Joseph would start dictating again. He wouldn’t say, “Now, where were we?” He wouldn’t read the manuscript, and Emma said, “This would have been nearly impossible for a well-educated man to do, but for Joseph …,” and she emphasizes he was ignorant, he was unlearned. She said this would have just been impossible, so for her, this belief in the Book of Mormon just really comes throughout her life, and at the end of her life, during this interview.

Laura Hales:              I took that sentence that you just talked about that is in your essay where Emma recalled Joseph could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. I recently did interviews with Joseph Spencer and Grant Hardy about the complexity of the Book of Mormon, so having that in my mind, I thought, I’m going to go to the Joseph Smith Papers project, and I’m going to find a letter that he wrote in that time period, and just see how it reads. I learned some things.

Matt Grow:                Okay.

Laura Hales:              First, it was a very difficult task I set myself to do for several reasons. Number one, he liked to use scribes, so I would find something early, and it would be signed by Oliver Cowdery, or it would just be his signature, or it would be his secretary. Another problem was, I would find a letter, get all excited, go to it, and it would say, non-extant, meaning, “We don’t have this.”

Matt Grow:                We don’t have it, yeah.

Laura Hales:              But I finally found a letter, and I read it. And I urge listeners, this is easy, though the Joseph Smith Papers is an academic project, the website is free and easy to navigate, and it has a robust search engine. Just type in what you’re looking for and have fun scrolling through the pages. I got this letter out, and I read and printed it. It’s about a page long, figuring it’s probably representative, even 1832, he probably improved from 1828 when he was dictating. The thing that stood out to me as an English teacher. It was rambly, there was no topic sentence, supporting points, or a conclusion. It was just thoughts as they came out, and they weren’t necessarily profound. You’ve read a lot of Joseph Smith’s early writings. Did you think Emma was right in her assessment?

Matt Grow:                Oh, I think so. I mean, the Book of Mormon, from my perspective, is so complex, so beautiful in its language. And it is hard to compare anything else that Joseph writes with the Book or Mormon.

Laura Hales:              Or even as a historian, would you agree that he couldn’t write or dictate a coherent or well-worded letter?

Matt Grow:                Right. So I don’t want to overstate it … like the 1830 letter that you’re referencing to Emma … it is coherent.

Laura Hales:              It is coherent.

Matt Grow:                Right, it’s not like it’s a bunch of babble.

Laura Hales:              Yeah, I was looking for something like fourth grade level. It wasn’t.

Matt Grow:                Yeah. Joseph is an intelligent man, and it seems that Joseph has much more faculty in speaking than in writing, so he could keep people in their seats when he’s giving a sermon for a long period of time. We shouldn’t assume that Joseph was kind of an incoherent bumbler either, right? So let’s not take that statement as meaning that, but he’s certainly, in 1828, 1829, as he’s dictating the Book of Mormon, he has such little formal education. There are good accounts from that time that he speaks ungrammatically. Even his later writings are full of grammatical and spelling errors when he actually puts his own pen to paper, and so I think there is something to what Emma is saying.

Laura Hales:              So we need to say that a lot of people, a lot of his contemporaries were in the same position.

Matt Grow:                Oh, sure.

Laura Hales:              It wasn’t that he stood out more than they did.

Matt Grow:                Yeah, I think, we do have to keep in mind that, even when compared with a lot of his contemporaries, he does come from a place, a lower social class, with very little formal education, so if you’re comparing him to his contemporaries, someone like Oliver Cowdery, who also comes from a rural America at the time. Oliver has had a lot more formal education. He doesn’t have the same gaps that Joseph has, certainly, at this early period.

Laura Hales:              In early 1829, Emma could very well have thought that for the remainder of her life, she would reside in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Historian Mark Staker has recently written a couple articles about Emma and Joseph’s early life in Harmony that we will put in the show notes. I suggest that whenever you listen to these podcasts you check out the show notes because often we have free resources there or a link to further study. It’s interesting to get that insight to these years from just their house that they built. They were so excited to get this property, and during this time between translating the Book of Mormon and getting it published and establishing the church, Joseph was building onto his house, wing by wing by wing. They still don’t have children, so we can guess why he was doing that, for future children or maybe he thought he would start a church, and they would meet there. But it was growing. They planted crops. You mentioned in your essay that Emma’s father had initially objected to the marriage of Emma and Joseph. Do we know why he objected?

Matt Grow:                We know some things, and we can infer a lot else. Joseph is not the type of man that the Hales envisioned their daughter marrying. They envisioned Emma marrying into one of the more prosperous, one of the more prominent families in the region. That is a sort of family that the Hales were. The Smiths came from a lower social class like we were just talking about Joseph had little education, didn’t speak with the best grammar, wasn’t a very polished individual. Furthermore, he had been mixed up with money diggers, which was seen as a real embarrassment to the house, and he didn’t seem to offer a lot in terms of future material prospects. He’s not coming to the marriage with land. He’s not coming to the marriage with money, and I think the Hales shouldn’t be painted as villains. I think they have legitimate concerns about how Joseph would provide for Emma. And I think they also felt embarrassed by Joseph, by his past association with money digging, by his professed belief that he had received visitations of angels, and others. So I think there’s a number of things going on in their opposition.

Laura Hales:              And also, Joseph’s continual use of the seer stone. They may have been under the impression that Joseph was done with what they called glass-looking. And then when he wasn’t, they became concerned. What other trials were Emma and Joseph experiencing at this time?

Matt Grow:                If you look at the early years of marriage, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that they have this son Alvin in June 1820 who dies. That seems to be really quite traumatic on both Joseph and Emma. Joseph believes that Emma may also die, and it is this moment of a lot of anxiety over Emma’s own health. Certainly, there’s the trial of the lost manuscript that Emma had helped serve as a scribe for, and so, of course, this is the famous story of Martin Harris and the 116 pages, and all of that that goes on creates a lot of anxiety as well. And as we get closer in time to when the revelation to Emma occurs in July 1830, there’s growing opposition. Emma had been baptized on June 28, 1830. They’re in Colesville, New York, the night before they know that there’s going to be some baptisms. The community knows a dam has been built in the river for these baptisms. The dam is destroyed. The saints wake up early the next morning, and they rebuild the dam. They’re going to do the baptisms, and as they’re doing the baptisms, the men in what they call “the mob,” are beginning to congregate. They say there’s about fifty in number. They go back to the home of Joseph Knight, Sr., Joseph and Emma, and many of the others, and these men are outside the house causing an uproar.

So you can imagine some of the anxiety and tension that that would produce when Joseph is arrested for disturbing the peace. He’s taken to another city. There’s a trial held, and he’s acquitted. Immediately after his acquittal, he’s arrested again on the same charge in a neighboring county, so he’s taken there, and his life is being threatened. The constable apparently has to kind of sneak him out another way to avoid the mob, so there is this sense of really growing opposition. If you can it put yourself in Emma’s place, the anxiety that that would produce. Is Joseph going to be safe? What’s going to happen? And we do have some record that she gathers with other women of the church and prays for his deliverance, and that they feel a lot of tension, a lot of anxiety over this.

Laura Hales:              After Joseph returned to Harmony after visiting the coastal saints, he received three revelations. When I read the title of this essay, I was thinking I was going to read about Emma, and then I said, D & C 24, 25, 26, 27, and I thought, wait, Emma is 25. I know that. I’ve known that forever, and I know what’s in 27, and it’s very different than 25. Why did you group these four revelations together?

Matt Grow:                Yeah, and you will see this strategy throughout the Revelations in Context series. We give more space to some revelations than other revelations. It does make sense to group these four revelations together because they come so closely in time, so 24, 25, and 26 all come in probably the first half of July 1830 in sort of the same circumstances. D & C 27 then is sort of linked as well to the meeting in which Emma is going to be confirmed. One of the threads that ties these together is this question of, “Okay, Emma is baptized. When is the confirmation going to take place?” They want to gather with other believers to do the confirmation. But these revelations do speak quite specifically about what Joseph and Emma’s family life is going to be. So in Doctrine and Covenants 24, Joseph was told that, in temporal labors, that’s not your calling.

Laura Hales:              You know, I always thought when I read that scripture, that is the one revelation you don’t want to receive. By the way, you’ll never have money, and you’ll always struggle.

Matt Grow:                Right, right. And so they’ve been struggling up until now, and they’re just told, “Hey, it’s going to continue. And so Joseph, sow your fields, and then go back to Colesville and the saints in New York, and you’ll have to look to them for support.” It is being made clear to Emma and to Joseph that they’re going to continue to struggle financially because they’re going to be devoted to the ministry, that they will have to look to others often to help with their temporal affairs. We see that throughout Joseph’s life —that he does have to depend on the generosity of church members to provide for his family. And that’s told to him quite explicitly here.

Laura Hales:              In section 24, not only does it say, “You won’t prosper, but it does offer some consolation by saying, in temporal matters, you won’t prosper, but in other ways, you will be blessed, which segues to a revelation for Emma and how she will be blessed. Let’s talk a little bit about Emma’s revelation as we usually refer to it.

Matt Grow:                Right.

Laura Hales:              In section 25, it states that Emma would be, quote, “Ordained by her husband to expound the scriptures and exhort the church.” Did the early saints use the word ordained in the same sense that we do today?

Matt Grow:                No, not exactly. And interestingly, Joseph, when he helps organize the Relief Society in 1842, he reflected back on this revelation, and says that she was ordained at the time that the revelation was received, as the revelation instructed. And we do have to understand that, from much of the 19th century, the term ordained was used to mean both priesthood ordinations and to also mean what we would say: setting apart to other callings. And as you go along in the 19th century, those terms set apart and ordained are used interchangeably at times. And then by the later part of the 19th century, church leaders, especially President John Taylor — now, they are urging church members to be more precise when they use those terms. But, you can look at the Doctrine and Covenants, and it talks about people being ordained — Emma being ordained. Here, it talks about people being ordained where we would say set apart, so in another passage, some men are ordained as church agents. That’s not a priesthood ordination that we would think about as more of a setting apart to do a specific responsibility, and so the meaning of that word ordained does change as the century goes along.

Laura Hales:              I think that’s important because people will say, “Aha, look, women were ordained to the priesthood,” but that wasn’t what was meant.

Matt Grow:                No, and in fact, in 1880, John Taylor reorganizes the general presidency of the Relief Society, so there hasn’t been a general president of the Relief Society since Emma even though Eliza R. Snow had been basically acting in that capacity since the late 1860s. It’s in 1880 that John Taylor sets apart Eliza and her two counselors, and when he does that, he says, the ordination given to Emma Smith and her counselors in Nauvoo did not mean the conferring of the priesthood upon the sisters. And Eliza and her counselor, Bathsheba Smith, who had in Nauvoo said that they so understood it in Nauvoo, and have always looked upon it since that time, so there was a pretty clear distinction, in their mind, that when the term ordained had been used, where we might say set apart today, that that hadn’t meant ordination to the priesthood or ordination to a specific priesthood office. And the church in the Gospel Topics essay that was published last year on Joseph Smith’s teaching on women, the temple, and priesthood talks some about that, so that would be another place that someone could go to understand that topic.

Laura Hales:              I remember that part. Emma is referred to as an Elect Lady in the revelation. You noted in the essay that that term was sometimes used to address succeeding Relief Society general presidents. This was new to me. In your research, did you find that this revelation was seen as generally applying to women in the church or Emma Smith specifically at the time it was received? Did that understanding evolve over time?

Matt Grow:                Yeah, it’s a great question. I will say that this revelation was really, really important to 19th century Latter-day Saint women. They often read it at their gatherings, and when they had celebrations they often read it. The revelation was included in the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835, indicating its importance. The ending of the revelation, I think is important here. It says, “This is my voice unto all,” inviting Latter-day saints then and now, I think, particularly, but not exclusively Latter-day Saint women to apply to themselves. Also, when Joseph read the revelation in 1842 at the organization of the Relief Society, he said that Emma had the responsibility based on the revelation to expound the scriptures to all and to teach the female part of the community. And then, not she alone, but others may attain to the same blessings. But I think, there, he’s saying pretty clearly that this revelation doesn’t just apply to Emma, although there’s certainly portions of it that applies specifically to Emma, right. She was asked to compile the hymnal. That’s not something that applies to all, but, I think, particularly that “expound the scriptures to the community” was seen as applying more broadly than Emma in the 1800s.

Laura Hales:              That’s interesting because I think a lot of people just think of that as Emma’s revelation. So you wrote this essay, at least it was published online in January of 2013. In the intervening time, you worked on a small little volume called The First Fifty Years of the Relief Society.

Matt Grow:                Yeah.

Laura Hales:              I own it. It’s a very beautiful volume.

Matt Grow:                Everyone should own it.

Laura Hales:              Well, it’s a scholarly publication. I would say everybody who does research should own it. Did you learn things in that that would have helped you with this essay? Do you wish you could have gone back, and did you say, “Oh, you know, I could add a little bit?”

Matt Grow:                Yeah.

Laura Hales:              Because information is so hard to find about Emma.

Matt Grow:                Right. Working on that volume was a tremendous education. Fortunately, I think, by the time I was working on this essay, I was already working on First Fifty Years, so I was able to use a lot of the resources from that book. There was no way I would know that the term Elect Lady was applied to later presidents of the Relief Society without the great research that Jill Derr and Carol Madsen and others had already done.

Laura Hales:              I wondered about that one. I thought, did he really know that?

Matt Grow:                No, but I knew people who knew.

Laura Hales:              That’s just as important, right?

Matt Grow:                That’s just as good. That’s just as good, and that’s really, I think, how we see these Revelations in Context articles. We see them as a way to get these historical insights that people down here have had out to a much broader community. One of the things that working on the First Fifty Years of the Relief Society taught me was how seriously 19th century Latter-day Saint women took this charge to expound the scriptures, to exhort the church, to exhort each other, and to help each other. I was really surprised at the rich documentary record we have of the 19th century Relief Society. We have hundreds and hundreds of minute books of local awards or stake Relief Societies from the 1800s, and they’re just full of women exhorting to each other, expounding the scriptures to each other, they took that charge really seriously. And they look back to section 25 as, at least, part of the authorization for that work.

Laura Hales:              Thanks so much for your time, Matt. I’m going to ask you one more question. In five sentences or less, can you sum up how you hope this additional historical context will enrich members’ study of these revelations during this year of Doctrine and Covenants and church history study?

Matt Grow:                Well, the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were given at specific historical times to specific individuals, but they’re also intended to teach general principles and apply in part to all of us. The trick, I think, is understanding what specific in the revelation is intended for another time and place and what is general in the revelation and intended for all saints at all times. I think the way that we understand that is by understanding the historical context. The specific historical context I’d want to emphasize here is that from the earliest days of the church Emma Smith and other women had an obligation and a responsibility to expound scriptures and to exhort the church according to the spirit.

Laura Hales:              Thank you, Matt.

Matt Grow:                Thanks.

Disclaimer:                    LDS Perspectives Podcast is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The opinions expressed on this episode represent the views of the guests and the podcaster alone, and LDS Perspectives Podcast and its parent organization may or may not agree with them. While the ideas presented may vary from traditional understandings or teachings, they in no way reflect criticism of LDS church leaders, policies, or practices.

 

 

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